How Can the Religious Explain Evolution?

I do not see how a theist can square evolution with their own view of a god. One issue is that of when our evolutionary chain was endowed with a soul: when was it? Anyone who really thinks about the implications of evolution on ideas like ‘humanity’ will realise any line drawn in our evolutionary past to distinguish us from pre-human primates will be arbitrary; all individuals would be classed, by a taxonomist, as the same species as its parents and its children. No new generation would have been decided human, and the previous generation not.

Alternatively then, Heaven (and Hell) could be littered with semi-souls and fractions of souls of earlier primates; lesser humans. This soul-evolution model leaves open the racism-inducing question: do all ethnicities have the same amount of soul? By evolutionary models it’s unlikely for the same reasons we have differing amount of Neanderthal DNA, or blond hair, or height differences across ethnicities.

The other problem is that theism teaches us we are the point; we are the purpose. The conclusion then is that evolution has stopped; the ultimate goal has been reached. This hypothesis, on the theistic account, must be true. However, it has three major flaws. These are as follows: physiological changes are still being observed in the human species, things like height and earlier ages of beginning female menstruation; we could still be better; evolution doesn’t stop.

As the first of those points is self-explanatory, I’ll focus on the second: we could be better. On the theist’s model the point in life is morality for the sake of Heaven (getting into Heaven apparently represents an ultimate purpose, whereas this life apparently cannot be an ultimate purpose unto itself. I discuss that here).

But we could be more moral; we could have more empathy towards our fellow man and animals; we could better understand the consequences and implications of our actions; we could have more knowledge of what God’s commands actually are, especially what God means when He speaks of stoning people for adultery, non-belief and being a disobedient child; when He speaks of burning people at the stake for imaginary crimes like witchcraft. We could simply know and feel better. Even on the naturalist’s view the human body could be better: our teeth could fit better in our jaw; the appendix could not be more likely to kill us that to help us; the tonsils could not be so prone to infection that in some people they are better outside the body than inside; our spinal cord could not be a relic of our quadra-pedal ancestors and cause us medically irrelevant headaches; our vision could always be 20:20 etc.

Lastly, evolution doesn’t stop. We are not at the end of an evolutionary path. If there is a god, and it cares about our particular line of evolution, it is misguided to think we are any more significant than Homo ergaster, Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy) or Darwinius masillae (Ida)*.

*Assuming, of course, these species are actually on our lineage. We’re not completely sure.

4 thoughts on “How Can the Religious Explain Evolution?”

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